Monday, July 20, 2009

MyBrownBaby On the Road: Living It Up In Hilton Head, Savannah, and Charleston

My family couldn't really afford vacations when my brother and I were growing up, but when I got a job and some vacation
days, I made a point of doing something special with my free time. When I was living in the New York area, I was partial to Martha's Vineyard and Sag Harbor, for their history and spirit and beauty. And because, well, I'm kind of a vacation snob. If it wasn't in the North or out of the country, I wasn't going.

But now that my family and I are down here in Georgia, we've become partial to discovering the beauty of the South. This past week, we took the kids to the white sand beaches of Hilton Head, the incredible squares of Savannah, and the breathtaking, historic Charleston. Here are a few highlights...

is a charming coastal community in South Carolina, just over the Georgia border. The island is pristine, with lots of lush green space, pretty beaches and architectural beauty—even the building that houses the local KFC is correct! You can go bike riding along the island-long bike paths, you can visit the 129-year-old lighthouse and the island-famous restaurant, The Salty Dog, or you could do what we did, which was spend a majority of our time swimming, lounging and getting really chocolatey on the beach.

We did make a pit stop at The Carolina Coastal Museum to check out a kid-friendly seminar on alligators. We learned everything we ever needed to know about the little (big) buggers—you can not poke their eyes out, they can only run after you for 12 ft. before they get too tuckered to eat you, and the teeth, not the tail, are the most dangerous part on the scaly reptile—and the girls actually got to touch the little one below before we hiked through the park, laughing, joking, and taking cover from the blistering sun. The sun sure makes for a beautiful sunset, though.

is one of my favorite places to be. Its history is absolutely amazing—Sherman presented it to President Lincoln as a Christmas present after he slashed through and burned down much of Georgia. Savannah is, without question, a jewel of the south. It's 22 squares (parks), incredible centuries-old homes, plethora of galleries, and amazing waterfront River St., make it well worth the blisters you'll get on your feet just exploring its streets. When we go, we always take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city, stroll the Riverwalk, get fresh lemonade and taffy from Savannah's Candy Kitchen, and hit the soul food buffet (and search for ghosts) at The Pirate's House.

This time, though, we also took a tour of The First African Baptist Church, home to the country's oldest black congregation. Constituted in 1777 and built by the hands of slaves, the church was part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. We touched the air holes in the flooring—drilled to look like a tribal symbol instead of a makeshift ventilation system meant to give air to the 4 1/2-foot crawl space that hid runaways. From the crawl space, runaways would steal away through underground tunnels leading to the Savannah river. We also sat in the original pews built by slaves, each marked by the tribal symbols of the Africans who made them. Below, Mari is standing in front of a statue on River St. that was dedicated to Savannah's slaves; we were told that where that statue stands is exactly where the tunnels released the runaways onto waiting ships. Simply incredible.

is where you will find me when I'm old and gray. It is absolutely breathtaking—the history, the housing stock, the shoreline, the sailboats, cobblestone streets, the porches, the garden-filled courtyards. What was not to love? We ate Charleston blue crabs, visited the Old Slave Mart, once the epicenter of the South's slave trade, shopped for sweetgrass baskets in a former slave market (they're made from sweetgrass, indigenous to the coast of South Carolina and West Africa, and created exclusively by the descendants of the Gullah islands), and dreamed about one day making a home there. Too beautiful.

All in all, we had a wonderful time. And now, back to reality—home sweet home!

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  1. Your photos are simply breathtaking! Looks like you all had the best type of family vacation: fun, educational, inspirational, and a lifetime of memories made!

  2. GORGEOUS pics! I've never been to Hilton Head, but Savannah and Charleston are two of my favorite places. I miss the East Coast!!!

  3. Oh, thanks for sharing Denene! You have a beautiful family, and I am happy you all had a wonderful time!

  4. These pictures are amazing! It certainly looks like you and your family had a wonderful time. I have always wanted to visit Savannah, so I'm hoping to take my family sometime next year. I also hear that Hilton Head is just beautiful. Thanks for sharing these, they're truly wonderful! Have a great SITs day!

  5. Oh man, I've always wanted to go to Savannah! The history and architecture and the beaches, I hear (and now see), are so beautiful.

    Lucky you!

  6. Looks and sounds like you guys had a blast of a vacation! Thanks for stopping by today!

  7. Love the pictures!!! Looks and sounds as if you guys had a fantastic time creating memories.

  8. While you are at Hilton Head be sure to check out Dye's Gullah Fixin's (843) 681-8106‎

    The food is awesome. It's the only Gullah restaurant on the island.

  9. Well I'm glad My Brown Baby is off vacation, starved here, LOL! The pictures are amazing. They are refreshing. I love sleepy hollows, I could bask under them all day. I love Hilton Head too! My family goes just about every year. Not sure where you stayed but that darn traffic circle where a lot of streets meet put some wear on my heart everyday! I fell in love with The Hamptons too. I saw the signs but didn't make it to Sag Harbor. And I could do without the 50 ft. tall bushes hiding the homes, but I understand why it's necessary.

  10. Love the pictures. Looks like so much fun. I used to live on the East much culture and things to see and visit.
    So glad your family had a great time!

  11. if you are still in Savannah, you have to go by Coastal Scooters in the Downtown area, My parents own the shop. They are fun, planet friendly and black owned.

  12. I just finished reading the rest of the post... maybe next time

  13. Denene I am late reading this blog but I just moved from Savannah GA in March and your right it is an awesome place.

    We loved walking in the Squares on weekends and down River St.

    Next time your there stop at Cheryl Deys Bakery called "Back In The Day Bakery" it's yummy.

    Charleston was our other guilty pleasure. We loved the plantation homes there.

    Thanks for sharing these great pics!


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